12 December 2015
Consumer group CHOICE has tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found that four failed to meet the stated sun protection factor (SPF) claims on pack, with the worst performer only returning an SPF rating of 29.
"It's deeply concerning that some of the most popular sunscreens on the market failed to meet their stated SPF claims," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.
"Australians have one the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, making sunscreens an essential part of outdoor life. So it is deeply concerning these products are not providing their stated level of protection."
CHOICE tested general purpose, sports and kids sunscreens from the Cancer Council, Nivea, Banana Boat, Ombra and Ego in accordance with the Australian Standard and provided the results to the companies who failed the tests for urgent action. The four products that failed were Banana Boat Baby Finger Spray 50+, Banana Boat Sport 50+ (tube), Ombra Kids SPF50+ (roll-on) and Ego Sunsense Sport 50+.
While a few companies provided their own test certificates showing they did meet the standard, they didn't offer an explanation as to why the products we purchased didn't offer the same protection.
"It's particularly worrying that one product, Ego Sunsense Sport, only achieved a moderate SPF rating of 29 although 50+ is claimed on pack," says Mr Godfrey.
"While the Ombra Kids (SPF 36) and two Banana Boat (SPF 42) products didn't meet their claims either, they did at least offer high SPF protection, with a rating of SPF 30 or higher.
"But if these products don't meet their stated SPF claims, you are at risk of burning quicker than you would with a true SPF50 product.
"Given that most people don't use enough sunscreen, applying a true SPF 50+ product will better allow for some user error," says Mr Godfrey.
To be sold in Australia, sunscreens must be listed with Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and in order to be listed, manufacturers have to test the product according to the Australian Standard to ensure it meets the claimed SPF.
"Clearly a number of sunscreen companies will have some tough questions to answer from the regulator," says Mr Godfrey.
CHOICE is also calling for the development of a methodology for testing canned sunscreen products, as the current Australian Standard fails to provide for this.
Making the most of your sunscreen
The biggest impact on sunscreen SPF is how it's used – most people don't apply enough, and don't reapply it often enough. You can optimise the performance of sunscreen by:
- Ensuring you use the right amount – about two tablespoons for an adult's full body coverage.
- Applying 15-30 minutes before going in the sun.
- Reapplying every two hours.
- Checking the expiry date – or ideally replace the product every year.
- Storing it below 30°C – definitely not in the car.
For further information about our sunscreen test please visit www.choice.com.au/spf